I must be getting older. My days of punked-out, fast-paced splendor
have waned in favor of more melancholy, groovy, slow-jams. Buzzsaws
have been replaced by banjos, feverish vocals have given way to tepid
whispers, and the volume dial has spun in the opposite direction.
But I'm okay with my newer and tamer self - because I'm not alone
in my musical
about-face. James Vincent McMorrow, a spirited Dublin troubadour,
honed his craft listening to punk stalwarts like At The Drive-In,
Refused, and Glassjaw. You wouldn't know it by listening
to his latest release Early In The Morning. The album is a
refined, yet stirring, amalgamation of old-timey soul laced with idyllic
harmonies and ripe acoustic fruit. It seems that McMorrow has since
grown up and subsequently outgrown his punk roots - which is good
news for his listeners.
The first couple of tracks on the record, "If I Had A Boat"
and "Hear The Noise That Moves So Soft And Slow", take the
subdued approach of Bon Iver while "Sparrow And The Wolf"
rivals any Fleet Foxes jubilee hymn. "Breaking Hearts",
the most direct offering, is a jeering dart as McMorrow pleads, "But
when it comes to dying/I'll do it on my own/I've never been too clever/I've
always just hung on". But the mid-tempo, piano driven "We
Don't Eat" is probably altogether the album's finest moment.
Enveloped in McMorrow's searing vocal mastery and taking a cue from
John Hiatt's "Have A Little Faith In Me", the track
is pure gold. It is plain to see why, after originally being released
abroad in March 2010, the album hit #1 on iTunes in his native Ireland.
McMorrow has a smooth delivery, a warm clemency in his stories, and
a deep earnestness. From start to finish, his catalog never falters.
"This Old Dark Machine" shows some muscle with its humid
thump and ghostly chorus (sounding like it was written in a voodoo
playground deep in the bayou). "From The Woods" is its misty
bedfellow, buoyed by the clang of the banjo and the thunderous howl
of McMorrow's voice. Only Mumford And Sons can approximate
this level of acoustic brawn with such catchy precision.
On the whole, Early... is too good to go unnoticed stateside.
McMorrow might be a punk at heart, but his music is calm and sensual
without the sharp edges. If this is what getting older and more mature
sounds like, then let it be.
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